PEOPLE POWERED SEWING MACHINE
Over the years, Treadle On has sponsored a series of block exchanges. The Treadle On Block Exchanges (TOBE's) are exchanges for subscribers to the "Treadle On" list, designed to encourage the use of our machines, so that they don't simply sit as collector's items. While there have been quite a number of challenging blocks and exchanges, most have featured three basic block patterns, selected as being easy for beginners and excellent for teaching basic quilting methods. The object is to gather experience using non-electric sewing machines, and only blocks made on such machines are elible. There is almost always an ongoing exchange, and the rules are posted in The Quilt Shop.
This page will give instructions on the three basic TOBE blocks. Exchanges that use other patterns provide specific intructions as needed. A beginner who masters these three blocks will be able to make a lot of very attractive quilts, as you will see when you review some of the examples shown.
The three basic blocks are: the Three Stripe Block, the Four Patch Block, and the Half-Triangle Block.
Note: Unbleached, or natural muslin, is preferred for the plain segments of the TOBE Blocks. A high grade of muslin should be selected, i.e. a high thread count. Do not select a very light, gauzy muslin. Be sure to wash all fabrics before making your blocks.
As you scroll down this page, you will first come on instructions for the blocks, then to some ideas on assembling the blocks into quilts.
NOTE: In 2002, we had a very large Block of the Month project. Very detailed photographic how to instructions were posted for the different blocks we did. These included many blocks that used three stripe, four patch and half-triangle applications. I would recommend that you supplement the instructions below with a review of the Block of the Month instructions at: BOTM 2002
Instructions for the Three Stripe Block
The Three Stripe Block was our first exchange block. It's really easy and a bunch can be made quickly. It is popular as an exchange block to commemorate various Treadle On Gatherings (TOGA's) as well as for standard block exchanges.
As you can see, this block couldn't be much simple. It is a basic three stripe with a plain muslin signature strip in the middle. Three fabrics are used, ABC, with B always being the muslin in the middle. Blocks can be made with A and C the same or, as shown here, different. The ultimate design of the quilt will clearly have a scrappy look.
You can make this block quickly using strip quilting techniques. There are instructions below for mass producing them very accurately. The signing is done with a gel pen and then set by dry ironing. We highly recommend the use of the Pigma Micron brand marking pens sold in quilt shops. They are regarded as having the most reliably permanent ink. The information required is name, city/state, sewing machine model, and year. Many early machines cannot be accurately dated, and an estimate is adequate, i.e. "circa 1920".
The block is a three stripe design, and should be 6 1/2" X 6 1/2" square, including seam allowances (i.e. finished block in a quilt will come out 6" x 6"). Resulting blocks can be made into quilts with a basket weave design, or a staggered bricks design, or anything else you can come up with.
100% cotton fabric - pre-washed and ironed. Color choices are your decision. This is a good way to use scraps.
Amounts needed will depend upon how many blocks you wish to make.
Method 1: Makes one block at time working with accurate measurements
Cut one piece of unbleached muslin 2 1/2 " X 6 1/2" for signature strip.
Cut strips from two pieces of print fabric 2 1/2" X 6 1/2" to go on either side of muslin signature strip.
Sew print strips to signature strip using 1/4" seam allowances. Iron seams to the dark sides.
Block should measure exactly 6 1/2" X 6 1/2".
Sign your block using a permanent marking pen. Include your name ( preferably as you sign on Treadle On), your city and state of residence (or in which the block was made), the model of the sewing machine used, and the date of the machine if known. (see example above) For some machines, where the date isn't knows, it is OK to put something like "circa 1920"÷ circa 1950", etc., making the best honest judgement that you can.
Method 2: Strip Construction
Cut strips of unbleached muslin 2 1/2" wide.
Cut print fabric into strips 2 1/2" wide.
Sew print strips to either side of muslin strip using 1/4" seams.
Iron strips carefully, seams to the dark sides. Check strips to make sure they are 6 1/2" wide. Cut into 6 1/2" squares.
Sign your block using a permanent marking pen. Include your name ( preferably as you sign on Treadle On), City and State of residence or in which the block was made, the model of the sewing machine used, and the date of the machine if known. (see example above)
Special Caution: You will be making strips and blocks from scraps, and very possibly with different machines. Be sure to check frequently to make sure you are getting 6 1/2" blocks. At a minimum, always check if you have changed sewing machine feet or sewing machines. I used a piecing foot on a Singer 99 and got set up making perfect 6 1/2" strips. Then I moved that same foot to a Jones and made another batch÷ they all came out just too narrow to use. I couldn't get them to 6 1/2" no matter how hard I ironed them. I lost enough strips to have made 30 blocks. If I had checked the first strip, I could have visually adjusted the seam and been fine. As a result of this experience, I went to Method 3 of construction, described below.
Method 3: Makes one block at a time working oversized and then trimming to accurate measurement
Many folks find that working to exact measurements can get tricky, especially when you are switching from one sewing machine to another, as we collectors tend to do. As a result of problems described above, I went to this method of making my blocks. It's a bit slower, but ends up very accurate.
I cut my muslin strips to exactly 2 1/2" width, then cut those to 7" pieces . I cut my print strips to 2 5/8" x 7" pieces. I sew a print piece to the muslin piece, then repeat the process to sew the other print strip on. I use speed sewing techniques, i.e. don't cut each set, just keep sewing until they're all done. Then I iron the blocks, seams to the dark side, and then trim the resulting slightly oversize blocks into exact 6 1/2" blocks. See comment below about the nice plastic tool I have for this job.
Great tool for Treadle On Blocks:
Quilt shops carry a variety of gridded 6 1/2" square plastic rulers for roller cutting. These are the exact finished size of the TO exchange block and they make a perfect squaring tool. If you make the blocks the way I described for Method 3 (center muslin strip cut 2 1/2" by 7"... side strips cut 2 5/8" x 7"), you can just string sew them, iron them and use this tool to trim, getting perfect blocks every time. In fact, with this tool to help you "fool proof" the process, you can cut your strips as described above, with strip A and C slightly oversize, sew them together full length, iron them well and then cut 6 1/2 secctions out of the resulting long strips, using the trueing square to trim the sides. This process goes amazingly fast once you get into it.
Here is a sample four patch block and some comments on construction:
As you can see, the Four Patch is a simple block.
The dimension is 6 1/2". For newbies to piecing, the technique of making the
strips oversize and then trimming down to a perfect 6 1/2" square will work
fine. Use one of the 6 1/2" plastic squares described above. Use the center
as your key when trimming... In making mine, I cut 4" strips instead of 3 1/2"...
joined with standard 1/4" seams... when finished and ironed, using a gridded
ruler and the center of the block as the key point, I trimmed trim each edge
3 1/4" out from the center. This is extra work, and wasteful of fabric, but
gives a perfect square even if your piecing isn't. This is a step I especially
like to take when I know my blocks are going to end up being matched with those
made by many other people. For those who piece precisely, ending up with an
exact size is not a problem, but for the rest of us, it insures that our blocks
won't be the ones that cause problems in the piecing of the quilt.
The orientation of the block is not critical, but just to keep everyone on the same wavelength, let's say the muslin square should be NW. I had intended to put my name in the NW corner and the machine info in the SW corner. Somehow, when the blocks were finished, I felt all the information being in the NW corner looked a little better. It isn't critical and there are always variations. Remember that when mixed with the other blocks into some as yet unknown pattern, all the blocks may end up in different orientations to emphasize color or pattern.
Instructions for Half-Triangle Blocks
The triangle squares are, with seam allowance, 6 1/2", (the same as the other TOBE blocks) allowing for a finished block design of 6". With blocks coming from so many people, true measurement is very important. Here are some instructions on making triangle squares:
There are several techniques for making triangle squares. Some are fast, mass production approaches where you make whole sheets of them at once, others take a more methodical approach. I favor methodical. With this block, final assembly of the quilt into nice patterns is going to depend very much on nice matching of triangle points, so it is important that the blocks be accurate.
You can find instructions in books for several "techniques" of making these squares. I suggest you get out your books and cheat sheets and brush up on the subject. Just for the record, here is my favored method for making these. Approved theory is that making a pair of triangle squares takes two contrasting squares 7/8" larger than you want the finished half square triangles to be. That's all well and good, but I usually find I end up throwing some away because they just don't come out quite up to measurement. Instead, I start with two squares at least 3/4" to 1" larger than I want the finished piece to be. (Note: As I have gotten older, I stick to the 1" larger measurement.) Lay the two pieces (one dark, one light) together, good sides to the inside. Draw a line from one corner to another. Sew a seam 1/4" to either side of the line, then roller cut on that line. Press the seams to the dark side. Now, using a square roller cutting ruler, place the ruler's 45 degree line on the seam, and true two edges÷ I usually work on the upper and right edges first. Next, reverse the piece, and again placing the 45 degree line on the seam, put your true corner, which should now be lower left, on the intersection providing the actual measurement you want. Trim the upper and right again, and you should end up with a perfect triangle square. For these blocks, I would use 7 1/2" squares of fabric, make the triangle squares, then trim them down to 6 1/2 inches÷ a bit wasteful, but it lets me work quite fast without being finicky.
Obviously, you can speed this up by doing each step in batches. You can also draw out the squares in sheets, rather than working with individual pieces. However, I do recommend making them oversize and trimming them one by one. It's tedious, but the end result is worth it.
Note: Recent emphasis on the Half-Triangle Square (or HST) has prompted the expansion of these instructions with a pictorial guide. This set of instructions can be reached via this link:
Link to Pictorial HST Intsructions
Possible Ways of Setting TOBE Blocks
This picture is of some of the Three Stripe TOBE blocks mixed with some of the Trianle Square blocks. The more I played with them, the more things I saw to like. You could make rows like "furrows" as on top, rows of flying geese, like on the bottom, or you could make up diamonds mixed with present style blocks. You could put the present style in the middle and have points on the end.
This complete quilt is from Traditional Quilter, September 1998. It's just one of many ways you can set and vary a simple block like our three strip÷ This one uses 36 of the "key" blocks, plus alternates÷ obviously you can add as much or little border as you want, or use more blocks, but this one struck me as particularly good for someone who didn't want to use too many blocks. I'll leave the math and sizing up to you. Note that they used triangle squares for the border.
Here is an incredible TOBE quilt, depicting some of the key early events in Treadleonian history:
Treadle Annie's TOBE III and IV Quilt
At the Ohio Gathering, Treadle Annie showed a TOBE quilt that blew me away. I may have posted some pictures of it earlier, but I asked her to get me a really good set of pictures. They were waiting for me on my mail this morning, and I immediately sat down and built a display for this page. These pictures are great, but the quilt itself is even better. The way Annie caught the early history of TO almost choked me up... the map, the teddy block project, the Sunbonnet Sue quilt, and one of our beloved dragons. What can we say? Annie, it's a great piece of work.
Here is the whole quilt... TOBE I/II three stripe blocks and TOBE III/IV triangle blocks have been assembled to make large stars and a triangle border, with special appliqued panels inset.
This block shows the original Map of Treadleonia. Every trail and feature is detailed in. For all of you who were not here then, this map was the opening page of the web site, and, thanks to Danny, one of our members with real computer skills, was live! You moused your way around it and clicked on the sub-sites you wanted to go to. In addition to the major TO sites, there were many sub-sites that were woven into a Treadle On fantasy game.... Well, you had to be there. When the list got too big and things got out of hand, I had to take the map feature out. However, I preserved most of the locations and you can still visit them by going to the Treadleonian Tourist Bureau. It's one of the links toward the bottom of the main web site page.
Arguably, one of TO's greatest accomplishments was our famous Sunbonnet Sue quilt, which is becoming very well known across the country. We hope to see it featured in an upcoming issue of Quilter's Newsletter . This is a reproduction of Treadle Annie's block from that work. You can see Sunbonnet Sue in detail by going to The Quilt Shop.
Another of our earlier special projects was the design of teddy bear blocks. Again, this was Treadle Annie's submission to that project. All of our teddy bear work is preserved in The Bear's Den, which can be reached through the Tourist Bureau. The Bear's Den also features the entire "Pre-History of Bears and Humans", an important anthropological, sociological and paleontological work which was the these upon which my doctorate in Ursinology was granted.
Dragons are an important part of Treadleonian lore. They are perhaps best known as The Keepers of the Orb. The Orb is vital to the continuation of Treadleonia. It's role is so secret that I have never told the story. In addition, the dragons guard the Caves of Mystery in the Here There Be Dragons Mountains. These caves are where we posted the Treadle On Mystery Quilts. You can still visit the Dragon Mountains (our original dragon is still on duty there), but the Caves of Mystery are currently closed for renovation.
I could go on endlessly about the early days of Treadleonia, and the memories that Annie's quilt brings back... It chokes me up a bit, actually. If you haven't done so, I would heartily recommend that you take an afternoon, with a thermos of coffee and a hearty lunch, and go exploring through all of Treadleonia.
And here is another, my own, in what I call "Migrating Butterflies Pattern", just enough here to show you the pattern
Another TOBE Quilt
Thought I would send you a pic of my TOBE I & II quilt that I pieced together over the winter. Just for kicks, I entered it in our guild's quilt show May 5 & 6. I was really suprised to get a blue ribbon with it. I pieced it with 104 Tobe blocks & light blue blocks in order to come up with a queen size. I pieced it with my WW # 9 but I quilted it with our Longarm machine in order to be more elaborate with the quilting. A rose & a double tulip was quilted in the light blue squares, alternating rows down the quilt, & stitch in the ditch in the TOBE blocks. When I get my stack & slash together, I will send you a pic of it.
Jess in Pa
The idea for our first block exchange came from Cindy Borodkin in 1998. She and I worked to come up with a very simple block design and an exchange system that got get us all started quickly, and also would provide a continuing source of interest through individual exchanges÷ at least, that was the original plan. However, the people who participated in this first mass or unit exchange had so much fun everyone else wanted to get in. Rosalie Jensen offered to run a second mass exchange. This is no small offer, believe me. Cindy ended up handling over 3000 blocks!
I decided to honor Cindy's efforts by making a block for our Sunbonnet Sue project, showing her sorting the TOBE blocks. It came out so well I made another, and solicited miniature blocks (3") for a border, turning the whole thing into a wall hanging which I sent her with thanks from the group. Here it is: